What you can’t see can hurt you

Published on June 29th, 2022

For round the world races, the fastest course across the Indian and Pacific Ocean is in the lowest latitudes. The distance is shorter and the winds are stronger, and while it can be quite cold, there is always a price for victory.

But this route was not without risk as ice littered the waters, and when navigation and tracking technology became reliable, and the location of danger areas was better understood, electronic barriers limited how far competitors could dive south. Running into ice was a price too high.

This fear was reiterated when a 78,309-gross-ton cruise ship canceled its nine-night Alaskan trip after crashing into an iceberg off of the Alaskan coast on June 25.

The 848-foot Norwegian Sun was transitioning to Hubbard Glacier in Alaska when the ship made contact with a growler. While a growler is typically has less than 3.3 feet of ice showing above the water, and is under 6.6 feet in width, a passenger described it as “bigger than a truck“.

After impact, the ship changed course to dock in Juneau, Alaska, for further assessment. There, the company decided the cruise would be shortened and future trips canceled.

A Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson told Cruise Hive the ship was “engulfed by dense fog, limiting visibility and resulting in the ship making contact with a growler.”

Stewart Chiron, a cruise industry expert known as The Cruise Guy, noted that while impact with these pieces is common in the area, it is uncommon for a cruise to change its scheduled trip due to such an impact.

For an round the world race, this kind of collision could be deadly. For Norwegian Cruise Line, the pain would be in providing passengers with a full refund plus an additional future cruise credit valued at 100% of the original voyage fare paid.

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